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Peterson Stark Scott

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Turriff speaks out on tariffs
October 28, 2000

Gordon Turriff was a featured speaker today at an expropriation seminar held in Vancouver. Mr. Turriff is a Vancouver lawyer who practices in the field of recovery of professional costs. Early in his career he was employed as a Supreme Court registrar with responsibility for review and approval of professional costs in litigation proceedings. Since 1987 he has been in private practice advising and representing clients in cost recovery proceedings. Effective November 1st, he will be practicing with the firm of Stikeman, Elliott.

At the seminar, Turriff spoke about the tariff of costs that was adopted in June 1999 for purposes of the B.C. Expropriation Act. The tariff is used to determine the amount of an owner's professional costs that can be recovered from the expropriating authority. Turriff set the tone for his presentation by observing firstly that the decision to adopt a tariff was unfortunate and surprising. It was surprising because the previous "actual reasonable" standard for cost recovery had been working well for the first twelve years that the Act was in place. It was unfortunate because the tariff effectively took away the ability of the Expropriation Compensation Board to ensure that justice is done in all cases. He felt that cost recovery under the tariff would now provide an owner with cost recovery that was "far far below" an owner's actual costs for professional assistance.

Turriff described the tariff as an arbitrary method of determining cost recovery which might produce a reasonable result in some cases but when it does so it would be by accident. He was not aware of the reasons why the provincial government had chosen to adopt the tariff. He speculated that it might have been adopted out of a government fear that cost recovery by owners was getting out of hand. If so, he observed that a tariff was not required to prevent abuse. He pointed out that the Board had stated during an early cost hearing that the cost recovery provisions of the Act would not be allowed to provide professionals with an unlimited opportunity to work on behalf of owners at the authority's expense. Under the tariff which has been adopted, the Board's function is now confined to enquiring into the amount of time which a professional has spent on the expropriation matter. In his opinion, this is a factor which has little relevance to the value of the professional services.

Turriff's comments provoked a lively discussion. Tony Capuccinello, a lawyer who acts for a municipal government, rose to disagree with Turriff. He stated that most of the expropriations which he sees are not very difficult and that there were some owners' lawyers who were milking the system. He invited Turriff to attend at his office and review some of his files. He felt that the tariff gave the Board more flexibility rather than less. Bruce Melville, a lawyer in private practice, supported Turriff's stated preference for giving the Board the discretion to determine what is reasonable. Fran Crowhurst, a lawyer employed by the provincial government, took issue with Turriff's comments and agreed with Mr. Capucinello that the tariff provided additional flexibility to the Board. Finally, Ted Hanman, a lawyer in private practice, made the point that the tariff appeared to have been adopted without prior consultation either with the B.C. Expropriation Association or anyone who had experience with representation of owners. To illustrate his point, Hanman asked whether anyone in attendance had been involved with the drafting of the tariff but no one spoke up in response to his invitation.

The expropriation seminar is an annual event hosted by the British Columbia Expropriation Association.

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